The National
Trouble Will Find Me


5.0
classic

Review

by Slex CONTRIBUTOR (45 Reviews)
March 3rd, 2019 | 144 replies


Release Date: 2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Learn to appreciate the void

The National have always been haunted by the backhanded compliment that their albums are 'growers', but I don't buy it. I bought High Violet on a whim and a love of 'Fake Empire', and I was immediately convinced it was the best album I'd ever heard; the sophisticated and layered songwriting combined with the stark lyrical imagery was mysterious and addicting. 'Fake Empire' is subdued only for Bryan Devendorf to briefly rev up before delivering a head spinning performance of speed and precision. 'Secret Meeting' opens with raucous guitar jangle. So yeah, grower❓ I think it's just more polite than saying that you'll either love or hate this band, and there's certainly truth to that, as The National play to nobody's expectations but their own.

Of course, it is absolutely old hat to debate or even mention that The National release 'growers', but it's on my mind just about every time I listen to this album. Contrary to my instant love affair with the 3 releases preceding this, this one sure took a pretty damn long time to get to me, registering as a dull and lethargic slump for about 4 years. Granted, The National being one of my favorite bands gave it the chance to grow in the first place, but it's more than that. I grew along with this album. I heard High Violet when I was just 18, and let's be real, it's an extremely angsty album, basically high-concept anger dressed up in destructive metaphors about nature and ***ing zombies. It resonated so clearly because I was pissed off and pretentious, a chip on my shoulder and Infinite Jest in my lap. High Violet is the flood, and Trouble Will Find Me is the devastation that follows, when the air is still and you step out to survey the wreckage. That feeling that follows an outburst, when your lungs seem to shrink and your chest balloons with cold air❓ Humiliation, indeed. There's a release found in the catharsis of anger that Trouble Will Find Me refuses to indulge. It is the band's darkest and most desolate album lyrically and musically because there are fewer jokes to hide behind, because the music is feathery and fragile. It is Anhedonia: The Album, and I simply wasn't ready for it until I was.

There's an engaging contrast to the raw lyricism and the effortless, almost diaphanous music that kept drawing me back until I realized it's another perfect National album for reasons that are thrillingly against type for the band. In a subversive twist, it is all the things detractors claim this band are: wallowing, miserable, slow, simple. Previous releases were always questioning and unsure of themselves, but Trouble Will Find Me takes a long look in the mirror and in no uncertain terms does not like what it sees. It's unique to their discography in the fact that it knows at all times what it is and what it's about emotionally. It seems to alternate song by song between more melodic offerings and more emotionally driven dirges. The fluidity and lighters in the air openheartedness of 'I Need My Girl' gives way to the tense and chilly 'Humiliation', 'Fireproof' floats on a bed of plucky finger picking and dour strings and then 'Sea of Love' storms in with thundering drums and a playful guitar lick and wrestles the album back to the ground. The mood remains the same throughout (barring the overly schmaltzy and out of place 'Heavenfaced') but the band continuously find subtle ways to tweak the delivery, making for a more varied and invested listen than it gets credit for.

In the end, though, the greatest display of all these seemingly contradictory but ultimately complimentary emotions and methods is Matt Berninger, who gives the best performance of his career lyrically and vocally. The uncharacteristically crowd pleasing balladry of 'I Need My Girl' has proved to be divisive but Berninger gives the song an extra dimension twofold: his voice warbles and practically cracks under the weight of the longing and loss he expresses, "you got out and said you're sorry to the vines and no one saw it" a spiritual sequel to "I have weird memories of you" in the way that it so simply but profoundly conveys the intimate bond two people can share. There are numerous overt references to famous songs and musicians, and Berninger slyly finds new ways to frame using music as a medication for pain. I believe it's no mistake that he warns "don't swallow the cap" before advising to "play 'Let It Be' or 'Nevermind'". He finds momentary refuge but no answers, and knows better than to keep trying. There are jokes(this is still Matt Berninger we're talking about here), but they are decidedly tossed off, told with a grimace and mostly muttered to himself. It is telling that he even admits "there are some things I should never laugh about in front of family". He is down with his demons, and music and jokes only offer up so much respite before the next sobering realization, "I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls at the park" existing in the same song that ends with him lamenting "you said it would be painless, it wasn't that at all."

That the album ends with its most plainly beautiful and conciliatory song doesn't read as trite or predictable because Berninger shows how acceptance can be both freeing and draining. You can unburden yourself and let go of some things, but forgiveness is hard to find, and there are things you will never forget, that you hold onto as armor or ammo. He surrenders to acceptance, but on his own terms. The song fades out on a cloud of ethereal horns and sustained guitar notes, not graceless but with a knowing wisdom hard to find.



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user ratings (1675)
4.1
excellent
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Slex
Contributing Reviewer
March 3rd 2019


8015 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Whatever it's 6am and I can't sleep



My favorite Ntl album (tho Boxer is still their best)

Digging: Blood Cultures - Oh Uncertainty! A Universe Despairs

Artuma
March 3rd 2019


31115 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

terrific review

DoofDoof
March 3rd 2019


5192 Comments


'My favorite Ntl album'

Clever customer we got here, POS

Gyromania
March 3rd 2019


28321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Yeah this is their best for me too.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2019


42375 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

wish I liked this more, really great review. "acceptance can be both freeing and draining" is such a great line. glad you acknowledged that Heavenfaced fucking sucks

Gyromania
March 3rd 2019


28321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

yeah heavenfaced is awful

theBoneyKing
March 3rd 2019


17196 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This is incredible and describes exactly why I love this album so much. I had the exact same experience with this album, it took years to click with me but when it did oh boy did it click. A masterpiece.

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

Gyromania
March 3rd 2019


28321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

i'm one of the few who immediately fell in love with this, i think. high violet took me the longest to get into and even still i find it pretty weak compared to their other albums.

Pangea
March 3rd 2019


3115 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

DoofDoof
March 3rd 2019


5192 Comments


Heavenfaced sucks most because it shows it could have been the best song on the album if the stars had aligned just that bit differently.

So for a song that 'sucks' or is the weakest here...it's actually still pretty good and hints at the band's genius.

theBoneyKing
March 3rd 2019


17196 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

“Heavenfaced” is probably my least favorite here yeah but it’s still the sort of song that’s better than the best on 80% of other albums. So yeah really just a reminder of how mighty this band really is.

ianblxdsoe
March 3rd 2019


1916 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

thank u for this. absolutely incredible review, hard pos

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 3rd 2019


32092 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review for an obviously great album



Pink Rabbits might be the most heart wrenching and relatable breakup ballad ever

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

ianblxdsoe
March 3rd 2019


1916 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

def respect that choice, pink rabbits is rough, personally Sea of Love and Don’t Swallow The Cap are the ones that do it for me

DoofDoof
March 3rd 2019


5192 Comments


The 5 star songs on this for me are:
- Slipped
- Humiliation
- Pink Rabbits
- Demons
- This is the Last Time

Sort of in order of preference

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
March 3rd 2019


8015 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is the Last Time is their best song imo

DoofDoof
March 3rd 2019


5192 Comments


That song is sort of a 'two part'er', a bit like 'Slow Show' - I prefer the main song to the 'Jenny I am in trouble...' bit.

I also think both halves of 'Slow Show' are superior to that one...but it's still a great song.

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
March 3rd 2019


8015 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The 2ND half is my favorite Ntl moment, Sharon Van Etten's background vocals are unbelievable

DoofDoof
March 3rd 2019


5192 Comments


I like a good dirge - but that's them at 100% dirge

It doesn't really move me like the second half of 'Slow Show' - I still like it thematically and for mood

The actual song part of This is the Last Time I do find amazing though

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
March 3rd 2019


8015 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Slow Show is in my top 3 for sure, joined by City Middle and Last Time



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